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Next REI leader will have to confront the threat

Steve Cyr

REI may soon need a new leader if CEO Sally Jewell is confirmed as Interior Secretary. The next person to lead the outdoor gear retailer will confront a threat from another Northwest company –

REI has been beefing up its web site and its mobile apps in recognition of that challenge from Jeff Bezos and crew over at Amazon. A spokeswoman says REI sets itself apart with its knowledgeable store clerks – the people who help you decide whether to get a backpack with an internal frame or an external frame.

David Clucas writes for the outdoor gear industry publication SNEWS. He says the challenge for REI is that more and more people are coming in to try stuff on but then use their smartphones to comparison shop.

"And they’ll say, `Oh, I see a cheaper price on, I’m just going to buy it right there,'" Clucas said. "So really what companies like REI need to do is intercept consumers before they make that decision."

Clucas says an REI competitor called Moosejaw has given sales clerks iPads so that they can intercept those customers. He says if they see shoppers using their smart phones, they can show them what’s available through Moosejaw’s web site and try to save the sale.

Clucas says REI hasn’t given much indication about who Sally Jewell’s successor might be. No matter who it will be, he says managing the swiftly changing world of e-commerce will be a top priority.